Is Hassan Whiteside ready to lead the Miami Heat?

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At the beginning of the decade, the Miami Heat were dominating with their 'big three' of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, and it seemed like the good times would never end.

That trio spawned two NBA championships from four straight trips to the NBA Finals, but all of a sudden, the core of the Heat has been decimated.

Of course, LeBron would head home to Cleveland in 2014 so he could attempt to bring his hometown franchise their first ever NBA title. He did that this summer, but Wade and Bosh still remained in South Beach.

Then, the inconceivable happened and D-Wade was allowed to leave in free agency. Like James, he too went home, but this time to Chicago.

Bosh's ongoing medical condition appears to have put a halt on his Heat career, according to Pat Riley, as the organisation don't want to run the risk of paying him a lot of money for his blood to clot again.

In amongst all of that, Hassan Whiteside has gone from a pleasant surprise at center, to assuming the title of leader of the team.

After coming up against the Heat center, the Washington Wizard's pivot Marcin Gortat had some high praise for Whiteside, saying: "I personally haven't seen a better shot-blocker the past 9 years in the league."

Until 2014, Whiteside had played the majority of his career overseas or in the D-League former 33rd overall pick failed to get any traction in the NBA.

However, since Miami gave him a break in 2014, Whiteside has turned into one of the best rebounders and shot-blockers in the league today.

The 27-year-old made under $1 million last season. He will make $98 over the next four, and the Heat decided that retaining the big man was more important than their legendary duo of Wade and Bosh.

Goran Dragic told Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald that he thinks Whiteside has grown so much over the last couple of years he now belongs as an established, top player.

“It’s not only about listening, it’s about talking — to give information out and receive information. He’s listening to the players and coaches and he’s doing his thing. It’s the most relaxed I’ve seen him. He’s just happy. He’s found that last step he needs in his game.”

Wade also said Whiteside came back from last season's All-Star break “a different person on the floor and really focusing and being dominant night in and night out.”

Maybe Wade foresaw Whiteside's arrival as a franchise player coming, and with career averages of 11.6 points, 9.9 rebounds and 2.9 blocks per night, it's easy to see North Carolina native's value.

He finished third behind eventual winner Kahwi Leonard and Draymond Green in the Defensive Player of the Year race last year, but is he ready to carry a major franchise like the Heat on his back?

Consecutive trips to the NBA Finals might be a distant dream right now, but with young players like Justise Winslow, Dion Waiters and Josh Richardson developing, Whiteside might be at the forefront of something special in a few years.

LeBron James
Cleveland Cavaliers
Central Division
Eastern Conference
Miami Heat
Southeast Division
Dwyane Wade
Chris Bosh
Hassan Whiteside

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